1. Even though I try to make each collection of 10 a cohesive collection, knowing that I need another idea or direction to go in for the next month has kept me in a state of constant creative thinking. These collections are always on my mind, whether I'm trying to solve problems in my current collection or I'm franticly trying to think of what I'm going to work on next, I'm always hunting for ideas and this allows me to find ideas in unexpected places.
2. Hand in hand with thinking of ideas, I have also found that working generates ideas. There have been so many times when I have had no idea what to do or how to proceed on a piece, but I know that I have to accomplish something on it that day or I will be "behind schedule". So, I sit down with the piece in front of me and I attempt to have a conversation with it. I ask the piece "what do you want to look like? What do you want to convey?" Most often, I don't get the whole idea at once, but I will get a little portion and as I work on that, the next step is revealed, and then the next until it is done.
3. This leads right into the next lesson I've learned. Ideas lead to more ideas. Sometimes I'm afraid that if I use my only good idea for a collection, then I won't have any ideas left for the next collection, but you know what, that has never happened. For every "good idea" I use, I think of at least 2 or 3 ideas that I need to decide between for the next collection.
4. Although, no one is breathing down my neck to complete a monthly collection every month this year, I had decided before the year began that I was going to do this. It's the power of commitment that has made this project a priority. While it might be easy to shirk a commitment that I made only to myself, why would I want to disappoint myself when it's totally in my control to fulfill that commitment? This brings me to my next lesson...
5. Honoring my commitment proves to myself that it's important and I take my aspirations seriously. Some months, it was easy to get all the work done. There was no stress and it just came together. Some months required late nights and saying no to some things in order to work. Choosing to finish my collections at whatever cost has allowed to me prove to myself that if I can work to meet my own deadlines, I can certainly work to meet any deadlines that someone puts on me in the event of a show or a commission.
6. Speaking of deadlines, I quickly learned the importance of planning ahead. For most collections, I don't need to do much planning ahead other than knowing what I'm going to do by the first of the month. For the June collection, I had some preparation to do before I left on my two week trip in order to help me be successful. There's a collection that I plan to complete a few months from now, but I know that I won't be able to complete the drawing and painting of all 10 pieces within a month, so I'm drawing out a couple pieces each month, and then painting them all in the month I plan to sell them.
7. Along with planning ahead, it also became very important to set a schedule. My schedules always include extra time for an "off day" or a day when I don't necessarily have to do any work, but still remain on schedule. When creating my schedule, I also realized that I don't actually have the entire month to create. Since I post my work up in my shop for sale on the last weekday of the month, I don't work that day. And to prepare for posting my work on the last weekday, I need to have all the photographing, editing, and listings done before that day. I like to allow one day for photographing and editing and another for writing the listings, but I have done it all in one day when I've been short on time.
8. In working on these collections, I've also learned a few things about my process. If I start with a clear vision, I create a more cohesive collection. For me, this clear vision needs to start with more than one sketch in my sketchbook. I am bad at this. I should probably file this work under "Planning Ahead", but I have a hard time working on sketches when I feel like I should really just be getting to work. However, when I spend the time to work in my sketchbook first, the collection seems to come together more easily.
9. When I first started creating collections, I thought I would work in oil all the time because "I am an oil painter". Yes, I love working in oil, but I was limiting myself. When I lifted this arbitrary limit, I purchased some really nice pens and learned that I love working with pens. Then I allowed myself to play with my watercolors a bit more and then I realized that I love watercolor and pens together... So this lesson is about exploring materials.
10. Just as exploring materials has led me to loves I didn't think I'd love, exploring ideas has illuminated some very interesting things about myself. For instance, I love creating hair, by drawing or by painting, I think hair is a lot of fun. That interest came about very organically as I was looking at some of my work and realized what drew me in.
You know how many artists have their "style"? This, my friends, is a pathway to developing it and it basically comes down to taking yourself seriously (in a good, I mean business kind of way), explore, and do the work. Lots of work. I hope that you continue with whatever commitment you've made to yourself, start a new commitment, and learn from the process.